Changes in protest tactics necessitate the need for fresh countermeasures, according to Priti Patel. Others, however, claim that the proposals are “oppressive and incorrect.”
The police and crime bill is a huge piece of legislation that covers a variety of aspects of the criminal justice system. One of its most controversial sections would have a significant influence on protesters’ rights.
What powers do the police presently have to control protests?
In general, if the police wish to impose limitations on a protest, they must demonstrate that it will result in “serious public disorder, serious property damage, or significant disruption to the community’s life.”
They may also establish particular restrictions on parades’ routes. Such particulars are generally worked out weeks in advance with the organizers of large events, and they can apply for high court injunctions.
What would the legislation do to change things?
The home secretary’s capacity to prohibit protests and marches has emerged as a new flash point, with authorities proposing that he or she be given the power to restrict them on the grounds of being “systematically disruptive.” There are also suggestions for a brand-new criminal charge of obstructing roads, railways, airports, oil refineries and printing presses.
Protesters who attach themselves to another person or object face a potential 51 weeks in prison, and “serious disruption prevention orders” would allow authorities to ban named individuals – including those without any convictions – from participating in demonstrations or even using the internet to encourage others to do so.
More control over where and when protests are held would be provided by this bill, as well as extended stop and search powers that allow cops to target individuals and cars if they suspect they may be carrying anything that might be used in a protest. A new crime of damaging war memorials or statues could result in up to ten years in prison.
Why is the government taking such steps?
The bill has been criticized as an enormous power grab by the state, making many forms of protest difficult or impossible. The government is clear that the new measures are intended to tackle Extinction Rebellion’s highly disruptive protests in London in 2019, as well as Black Lives Matter demonstrations the following year. In November, after the government introduced late-stage changes.
Home secretary Priti Patel has declared that peaceful protest is still a “cornerstone of democracy,” but she claims there has been a “fundamental change in protest strategy” since the introduction of new legislation. According to the Home Office, the new restrictions will assist police in better dealing with protesters who are set on causing significant disruption and inconvenience.